If Goldwater Had Won The Presidency (A Question for the Legal Beagle Dopers)

Okay, I remember watching some biography program on Goldwater, and at the end, they said that technically he was ineligible to be President since when he was born in Arizona, it was still a territory and not a state. I find it a little hard to believe that Goldwater would have been denied, but given some of the odd ways the Constitution has been interpreted in the past, anything’s possible. So, if he had won, could the Democrats have sued to block his election because of this? And how likely is it that the SCOTUS (since it would have ended up there, eventually) would have ruled that Goldwater was not eligible?

There’s no requirement that the president be born in a state…just that he be a natural born citizen of the US. So, Goldwater was eligibile. Somebody born in Puerto Rico is eligible.

The specific requirements for the office are

The question is whether someone born in the Arizona Territory was a natural born citizen.

The Arizona Territory was as much a part of the United States as is the District of Columbia. Woiuld anyone argue that someone born in D.C. can’t be President?

Also, the first seven presidents (Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Jackson) were born before the “United States” existed as such. Van Buren, the eighth president, was born in 1782 – after the Declaration of Independence (1776), but before the Constitution was ratified (1788). William Henry Harrison, Van Buren’s successor, was the last president born (1773) before the adoption of the Declaration. Tyler, the tenth president, was the first born (1790) after the Constitution had become the law of the land. Polk (#11) was born in 1795, but Taylor (#12) was born in 1784. Thus, the man inaugurated in 1849 could have been deemed “technically ineligible” by some quibblers.

Nobody born in the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865 ever became president, and I’m not aware of any serious candidate who could have been tripped up by such circumstances. Furthermore, the U.S. Government never (IIRC) recognized any of the Southern states’ secessions, so the issue might never have come up anyway.

During the 2000 primary season, there was some discussion of John McCain’s having been born in the (Panama) Canal Zone. Since his parents were citizens of the USA, and the Canal Zone was under U.S. jurisdiction at the time of John’s birth, the potential ineligibility of the Republican Senator from Arizona (interesting parallel to Goldwater) quickly became a non-issue.

George Romney, who briefly campaigned for the Republican nomination in 1968, was born in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Since his parents (Latter-Day Saints who had temporarily relocated before returning to the Idaho-Utah “Mormon belt”) were U.S. citizens, however, Romney was allowed to try for the White House.

And then there’s the question of whether President Chester A. Arthur, officially a native Vermonter, may have been born in Quebec…

A person born in Timbuktu to American parents is still a natural born citizen of the United States. Natural born does not mean “born only within the United States”. Natural born means a U.S. citizen from the moment of birth. From U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

But they were all citizens at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. To repeat the prior quote:

People (except members of sovereign Indian Nations) born in the Arizona Territory were U.S. Citizens. The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and the Organizing Act for the New Mexico Territory (which originally included Arizona) provided for that. And various versions of the Nationality Act passed ever since (the latest in the 1950s, since amended) also include the inhbitants of the Territories in the definition of “natural-born citizen”.

The Hon. Barry Goldwater was born a U.S. citizen.

So how come this question seems to be asked here once or twice every blessed year?

How about Sidney Catts, the former Governor of Florida and a major figure in the Prohibition Party? If he had decided to run for President back in the twenties, would he have faced a legal challenge for having been born in Alabama in 1863 (when that state had emphatically declared it was not part of the United States)?

Not a supportable one - the United States never recognized the right of the Confederate states to secede. He was born in the United States, whatever Alabama was saying about it in 1863.

Not necessarily true. Natural born is not defined in the Constitution and until a case is decided by the SCOTUS, we don’t know for certain what qualifies as “natural born.”

Is that so clear cut? All of the states that seceded had to be re-admitted to the Union. If the US never recognized their secession, why did it have to re-admit them?

I’d make a note to myself never to take anything that I ever heard on that program too seriously ever again.

This is why the term “frivolous lawsuit” was invented.

Not likely at all, since the case would be thrown out by any self-respecting district court and SCOTUS would never grant cert.

But if anyone really believes otherwise, they should keep their lawsuit papers handy and hope that John McCain gets elected President, because he was born in the Canal Zone.

I refer you to the U.S. Code.

Why should this question be any different?

I’m pretty sure that it is that clear cut, and southern states were not “re-admitted” to the Union, as they were never acknowedged to have laft. However, it was a widely held assumption even at the time. One of Lincoln’s senior generals after Gettysburg made a claim to the effect, “We have repulsed the invader from our land and forced them back to their own.” Lincoln supposedly despaired that the guy just didn’t get it – there is no “them”, there is only “us”, and “they” have no foreign soil to return to. .

Walloon, that link doesn’t mention “natural born”. It defines the meaning of the term “U.S. citizen” for the purposes of federal law. We’re talking about the definition of “natural born citizen” as a Consititutional requirement to be president.

While that U.S. Code definition of citizen would certainly be relevant to SCOTUS when reviewing a case over the definition of “natural born”, it would not be binding.

SCOTUS could decide that while the definition of citizen is fine for deciding who automatically gets a U.S. passport, etc., the framers meant for any president to have been born within a state of the United States, i.e. the requirements for president could be more restrictive than the citizenship law.

Until someone brings a case or the Consitution is amended, we won’t know for sure.

Following the Civil War, the Union ruled the seceding states through military governments – first operating under direct Presidential authority, later under the Reconstruction Act of 1867 – which slowly organized civilian governments who held power at the occupying forces’ sufferance. Congress denied seats to senators and representatives from those states until they had complied with certain conditions – such as ratification of the 14th amendment – and been formally readmitted to statehood under the Reconstruction Act. Congress eventually did readmit each seceding state. From Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (1990):

Pp. 109-10.

P. 122.


What part of

is ambiguous or open to interpretation?

Unless we are being so anal about using the actual two words “natural born” that we’re unwilling to recognize the use of what for almost 200 years has been the legally accepted definition of “natural born citizen”.

It’s hard to govern a society if we’re going to presume that we do not know what any Constitutional or statutory provision means unless SCotUS rules on it.

On the Confederacy thing - also note that it is not required that somebody be born in an actual state to have US citizenship. It suffices to be born in territory belonging to the the US. Since the US never recognized the sovereignty of the Confederacy, and the area in question certainly didn’t belong to any third party at the time, it must have belonged to the US, whether Alabama’s status as a state was in some sort of limbo or not.